Town of Monroe

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History of Monroe

Orange County , New York

The Town was organized in 1799 as Chesekook (Cheesecock), named after the 1707 patent granted by Queen Anne , and was carved out of Cornwall . An act of Legislature passed in 1801 changed the name to Southfield , and in 1808 another act was passed giving the town it's current name, Monroe in honor of the fifth President, James Monroe. The first town meeting was held in the home of John Weygant in April 1799. In 1864 'Old Monroe' was divided into three towns, Monroe , Highlands , and Southfields.

      The original settlers were Dutch, followed by the English from Long Island , drawn to this area by its rich natural resources, primarily fresh water and land for farming. During the Revolutionary War there were many Tories and Patriots in the area causing local conflict as history records. David Smith of Smithtown , Long Island built a dam and grist mill ( Lot 43) whose foundations can be seen today at the southern end of the Mill Ponds in Crane Park . A hamlet was developing which fostered the need for the creation of the Orange Turnpike (Stage Road, North Main Street ) to accommodate stage coach travel. With growth came the need for Inns, Taverns, a Tin Shop, Wagon Maker, Blacksmith and Harness makers showing the entrepreneurial spirit of early settlers to the area.

      Early surveyors found many minerals in the region including feldspar, mica, quartz, and iron. This mineral combination combined with plentiful lumber, wood, and lime gave rise to the iron industry in the area. 1752 saw the creation of the Sterling Iron Works and later Forest of Dean , Queensborough, and Greenwood were the main ones. In 1753 the first ship's anchor was made. Even though the area iron was high in iron content, however extracting it was laborious, and costly. Manufacture of steel under Peter Townsend began in 1776, with his son Peter perfecting blistered steel by 1810. After the Civil War the iron industry in this area began to decline and new mid-west surface deposits provided cheaper means of extracting iron. Drives through the area still reveal this history with the remains of charcoal pits, the actual mines, and furnaces in plain view.

1841 brought the Erie Railroad providing better personal and commercial transportation with New York City . The railroad was an immediate sensation opening the dairy, iron and associated industries to New York City . Monroe is accredited for two specific cheese products Leidercrantz and Velveeta (still on the market today). Some even claim that the first cheese factory in the U.S. was in Monroe . The success of the dairy industry lead to the development of such organizations as the Monroe Dairy Association. Dairy products remained the leading industry until World War I.

      The early 1900's saw change in rail travel from primarily commercial to passenger traffic making the transformation of Monroe to a popular vacation resort area. This combined with the introduction of the automobile and improved roads and highways took Monroe from an industrial/farming focus to a vacation/suburban lifestyle. Train rides through the country took city folks to Monroe lakes, and cool-clean air as featured in advertising to attract vacationers. Tourism gave rise to many hotels, boarding houses, and summer cottages. Many of these visitors later became residents commuting to New York , taking the area to what appears its destiny of being a central crossroad and suburb to metropolitan New York City .

      Even today Monroe can be described as in the 1956 Orange County Guide, What Monroe has is a beautiful scenic area that offers home-seekers the best in home sites, all the advantages of close proximity to metropolitan areas, convenient distances to modern schools and shopping

      

Following is a History of Monroe that was presented to the Monroe Historical Society by Christa Elise Bolen.  At the request of the Historical Society and by permission from Christa Elise Bolen we are making it available on this website.

 

 

 

11 Stage Road, Monroe, New York 10950
Phone (845) 783-1900 Fax (845) 782-5597
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